In the anthology film, Bombay Talkies, released in 2013, Anurag Kashyap tells the story of a young man from Allahabad who makes the journey to Amitabh Bachchan’s house in Bombay, with a bottle of home-made murabba.
Kashyap told the Wall Street Journal: "It’s about how a star’s persona affects everyday life in India: how their dialogues are etched in stone, how each one of us unknowingly emulates our favourite onscreen characters."
Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan treads similar territory. In a double role, Khan plays Aryan Khanna, a Bollywood superstar, as also Gaurav Chandna, Khanna’s obsessed fan, who makes the journey to Khanna’s (read Shah Rukh’s) bungalow.
|In Fan, Maneesh Sharma gives SRK a taut script.|
He comes from a middle class family in west Delhi’s Inder Vihar. The neighbourhood of DDA flats is brought alive on screen, complete with black Sintex tanks, bundles of pipes and wires and mohalla talent nights. From the terrace, one can see the Metro lights blinking in the distance.
I’ve long felt that Khan needed a good script, that he still has something to offer as an actor, something he hasn’t done since Chak de India.
The formulaic Chennai Express might have gotten him a new audience, a different generation of kids, but for us old fans, it was plain boring. We, like SRK, had grown up. Like many others, I saw Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam in single screen theatres when they first came out.
In Fan, Maneesh Sharma gives Khan a taut script, which is all story and no songs, and directs a thriller that often doesn’t seem like a thriller but something else – good drama that is close to real life, with several psychological layers.
Middle class West Delhi is brilliantly observed and committed to screen. Sharma, who grew up in Pitampura, stays close to his roots.
Fan raises questions about celebrity culture and the fan/ superstar binary, but goes beyond that. It doesn’t try to send any messages.
For the most part, it concentrates on telling the story of these two characters, as simply as possible. In the process, it raises questions about identity and fame, but feels no need to provide any obvious answers.
The premise of the film never bogs it down; Fan is a triumph of storytelling. Khan’s performance is terrific. It’s only after the film is over that the viewer starts to think: there is more to this than meets the eye.
|SRK plays the fan so convincingly that for the most part, I forgot that it was him acting.|
In that sense, Fan is genuinely thought-provoking. You empathise both with the obsessed fan as well as the world-conquering superstar.
Chandna doesn’t start out as a stalker, he becomes one during the course of the film. He is the only child of loving parents who chop vegetables together. The inside of his room is not very different from the superstar’s house –it’s a shrine to stardom.
In one scene, the fan manages to blag his way into the superstar’s house and smashes up his award trophies, framed photos and the banjo from DDLJ. Do these objects really matter?
SRK plays the fan so convincingly that for the most part, I forgot that it was him acting. By playing his own fan, he collapses the distance between his two selves – a star can be his own biggest fan, leading to a kind of duality within one’s own self.
The script forces Shah Rukh to tap into this, the over-the-top self confidence of the superstar is coupled with the hurting vulnerability of the fan — they both are part of the same fantasy. Both Aryan Khanna and Gaurav Chandna are shown to have normal lives, the moment they step out of this fantasy.
In one scene Aryan tells Gaurav: Look, our backgrounds are similar. I grew up in a similar middle class neighbourhood, in a similar family and we went to similar schools.
Khanna has his wife and kids. Gaurav runs a small internet cafe and is a simpleton in a harsh society. It’s people who are cruel. They will judge the superstar, as much as they do the oddball. Both will be pulled down with scathing viciousness. Both are punished for being different. It’s the way of the world.
The bubble of stardom is a bubble, albeit one filled with luxuries. The star is cut-off from reality, even if he doesn’t want things to be that way. He has no way of knowing who is a genuine friend and who isn’t.
Do they love you because you are Shah Rukh or do they love you for who you are? Can the two ever be separated? Fan gives us a glimpse into that loneliness. The crazy fan extends a hand of friendship, if one can call it that. At least it is genuine.
Which is why Aryan always forgives him. He tries to save Gaurav till the very end. He literally offers his hand to save him, when he slips and falls over from the terrace in the final scene. It’s the fan who pulls away. Aryan doesn’t want him to do so.
After the film ended, I walked out into the foyer of the theatre and pressed the arrow button for the lift to come up. While the lift was still lost somewhere in the chute, I realised I had left the ticket in the soft drink holder of my seat’s armrest. I wanted to keep it as a memento. I had a fan moment. I went back and recovered it. It’s in a secret hiding place now. I won’t tell you where it is.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)